22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)
24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
1901 ASV Translation:
22 And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord
23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord),
24 and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
Textual Issues:In 2:21-24 there are two textual differences between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26. The first is the spelling of the name "Moses". The Textus Receptus omits one letter. The second is in the phrase in 2:24 "in the Law of the Lord". The Textus Receptus omits the definite article "the".
I. In the paragraph of 2:21-40, it seems to be Luke's intention to address the characterization of the newly born Jesus by two elderly saints in the Temple.
II. The content of Luke's record breaks down into these parts...
A. 2:21 -- the "Name" given
B. 2:22-24 -- the occasion for the comments made by Simeon and Anna
C. 2:25-35 -- Simeon's character and comments
D. 2:36-38 -- Anna's character and thanksgiving to God regarding His redemption
E. 2:39-40 -- Luke's conclusion of this part of his record: the departure to Nazareth and the subsequent growth of Jesus
I. The Issue Involved in Presenting Jesus to the Lord.
A. Luke specifically mentions two issues involved in "their purification".
1. The first is the biblical mandate to present the firstborn male of the womb to the Lord.
2. The second is the biblical mandate to present a sacrifice in view of "purification".
B. Luke's focus upon the first mandate centers upon the presentation of Jesus to Yahweh.
1. The term translated "to present" is a word that generally means "to put at the disposal of" [see Theological Dictionary of the New Testament]. The implication is that there is a "purpose" which Yahweh has in mind and He seeks an "instrument" to accomplish that purpose. When a person is "presented" to Yahweh, then, the idea is that of a "dedication to a task" so that a purpose can be achieved.
a. That Yahweh is introduced by the Law of Moses as the Executor of Power [Elohim] from the very first verse of Genesis produces an inescapable focus for the entire character of Creation: it is both the result of the exercise of Power and it is to be an instrument of the on-going exercise of Power because thereisnothingthatexiststonopurpose in all of Creation.
b. That "science" has uncovered the fact that the cessation of activity seems to signal the absolute presence of "death", the indication is that "power" is the root of life and the continual activity of life is both an indicator of the nature of life and the actual methodology of life. The scientific "law" of entropy is really just the Bible's declaration that "death" consists in the cessation of activity (James 2:26). But, biblically, "death" is not as simple as "the cessation of activity" (that is more in line with annihilation, than death). Rather, "death" in the Bible is "futile" activity. Thus, one can be very active, and very "dead" at the same time if the actions are going to be brought to nought by the God Who determines whether an action is going to be permitted to achieve its intention. In other words, the God of the Bible not only has an objective that will be achieved, He actually brings all activity into the service of that objective and anyone who seeks to oppose His objective will ultimately discover that he not only cannot achieve his objective as an opponent of God's objective, but that God has turned the very efforts he executed in opposition into instruments of His objective. Thus, the true essence of "death" in the Bible is not the cessation of "busy" existence; rather, it is the total frustration of the individual's objectives in his/her "busy-ness". Thus, "impotent rage", as the emotion of frustration, seems to be the biblical notion of "death". Gehennah is presented as a place where heat (fire) is applied to maximize activity, but where that activity is totally frustrated in its "oppositional intentionality" so that both emotionally (weeping) and spiritually (gnashing of teeth) the individual's experience is of absolute frustration of intentionality.
2. In the Exodus 13 text where the requirement is first established as a legal practice in Israel there is a stunning abruptness involved. Yahweh tells Moses to set the firstborns apart as His in 13:2 and Moses turns around immediately and instructs the people to observe the Passover in 13:3-10 and does not actually get "into" the instruction for sanctifying the firstborns until 13:11-16. And, in that belated instruction, there is a deliberate tie between Yahweh's deliverance of the nation from Egypt and the sanctification of the firstborns that is directly related to the death of the Egyptians' firstborn sons at the time of the deliverance. In the later texts, it is interesting that the focus is upon the "males". When the Levites were numbered in Numbers, it was only the males. When the "sanctification" that was accomplished by the "trade" of Levites for non-Levites, it was a "male" only issue.
a. One of the "issues" involved here is the question of why Yahweh seems to indicate that He has a "special" focus upon firstborn male children. Are we to assume that the "later" borns are not to be "dedicated" to Yahweh's purposes? Of course not. But, then, why the "focus"? Perhaps the answer lies in the impact of the "special" dedication of the firstborn. The firstborn of a man typically holds that man's special favor over all others [Note Jacob's comments on Reuben, the firstborn of Leah, in Genesis 49:3, and Jacob's doting on Joseph, the firstborn of Rachel, as the "spark" that ignited the fuel of jealousy in the rest of the boys]. Thus, to "dedicate" the firstborn to Yahweh's purpose(s) is to declare one's own commitment to Yahweh's purpose(s). It is the essence of the methodology of life that one be as committed to Yahweh's good purposes as Yahweh is Himself. Thus, it is a "life" principle to "highlight" dedication to the purposes of Yahweh by "dedicating" one's "initial fruit of the loins" to Yahweh.
b. The same issues are involved in "firstfruits". The first yield of the crop was to be "given" to Yahweh, not so that the "rest" could be used as one pleased, but so the "rest" could be also understood to "belong" to Yahweh. That this "form", or "ritual" has only very limited effectiveness in the minds/hearts of men is seen from two realities: 1) most people do not "dedicate" their firstfruits to God at all; and 2) most who do so "dedicate" tend to strongly believe that they have "done their duty" and the "reward" is that the "rest" can be used by me at my discretion and for my own objectives irrespective of whether they are God's objectives or not. This is an almost total perversion of the intention of God in insisting upon the dedication of the firstborn male.
c. That the issue is "male" related is probably seen most clearly in that God created the "male" to pursue His agenda and He created the female to "help" him do that. That sin turned everything on its head was made most clearly manifest when Eve set the agenda of rebellion and Adam "helped" her carry it out. God has never abandoned His "the male is My servant; the female is his helper" identification of the male/female components of humanity.
3. There is no escape from the bold truth that the "presentation of the firstborn male to Yahweh" was directly related to the Passover and the Deliverance from Egypt by means of the death of the firstborn in every home in Egypt. That "Jesus" was taken up to Jerusalem to be presented to Yahweh becomes enormously significant in light of the fact that He was destined to become "our Passover" [1 Corinthians 5:7]. It can be no "accident" that Luke deliberately chose to highlight the presentation of Jesus -- a record that no other Gospel records. Luke is emphatic that we see "Jesus" between Justice and Mercy (between circumcision and virgin conception) in 2:21, and he goes further in this emphasis by bringing up the "purification" issues of the "Law" as that dredges up the the entire problem of "uncleanness" and posits the possibility that Yahweh actually has a plan to resolve that massive problem. Jesus is God's plan. He is the "dedicated firstborn male" Who is going to become, in a sense, the entire tribe of Levi which stood as a substitute for the firstborn males of all non-Levites in Israel. In greater wonder, He is the firstborn of Egypt Who dies so the people of God can be delivered from the place of constraint and oppression. Thus, it is no wonder that John cries of Him, "Behold, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world."
4. The Question: What is it about the "death of the firstborn male" that is so absolutely critical to the thought of God that it must be instilled in the thinking of men?
a. There almost has to be some kind of connection to the theological concept of the "federal headship" of Adam that made him the embodiment of humanity so that whatever he did was imputed to all his offspring. Jesus was the new Adam in this same sense: what He did is imputed to all His "brethren".
b. There also must be some kind of deeply ingrained issue regarding "firstborns" who are "sons". It is very clear in Scripture that Yahweh often deliberately "dissed" the firstborn in favor of some later born one because of some "flaw". It is not without note that Adam's firstborn was the first murderer. Jesus is the firstborn Who is murdered so that He becomes the firstborn murderer so that the murderers can go free [He, Who knew no sin, became Sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him].